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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

GISCafe Special Report Questionnaire: Drones for GIS Mapping

September 6th, 2019 by Susan Smith

The FAA estimates that there will be nearly half a million registered commercial use drones in the U.S. by 2022 (FAA 2018 – 2038 Aerospace Forecast).

Drones in construction

Drones, or UAVs or UAS, are being used in the GIS industry for such purposes as military surveillance, real estate, searching for hurricane activity, search and rescue missions, public health and safety, agriculture and in construction and countless other industries. In some cases, drones can provide greater resolution than satellite imagery. Their size and affordability makes them a valuable choice for scientists, power companies, surveyors, military actions and civilians and many others. They are also environmentally friendly and provide a low-cost option for gathering valuable data that can then be fed into a GIS.

Since drones can autonomously collect a vast range of data they are appealing to many use cases. Besides, they are light-weight and high performance. Satellite imagery has provided remote sensing data for mapping, but can often display low fidelity or limited visibility from cloud cover. High precision and accuracy can be achieved with aerial imagery, with planes equipped with high tech remote sensors. Photogrammetry, which makes use of overlapping photos to identify exact measurements between objects, is a useful way of gathering accurate models.

Drones in search and rescue

With GIS, the system is only as good as the information you give it. Drones or UAVs have the capability of assembling a vast amount of data, but it then needs to be collected in such a way as to be useful for the type of project it will be used for. There are numerous sensors and drones to choose from, plus software limitations and regulatory requirements.

What’s on board a drone? The UAV payload is responsible for gathering the data. Applications vary so the payloads can be inferred, action, or thermal cameras, high precision barometers or multispectral, LiDAR, or hyperspectral sensors.

The difference between drones and satellite imagery and aerial remote sensing imagery has to do with cost of equipment, trained personnel, environment and safety concerns and weather conditions.

Even a drone with high precision features on board is going to be a lot cheaper than aircraft sporting LiDAR and other instrumentation or a satellite launch and subsequent data collection. And it doesn’t take highly trained personnel to operate a drone. If there are troublesome weather conditions in the area, the loss of a drone is far less costly than the loss of an aircraft.

Below is a questionnaire on drones – please feel free to answer the questions that apply to your organization’s use of, development of, or interest in, drones or if you will, UAVs. Deadline for submissions is September 20th, 2019. Please include photos (no headshots or logos please), screenshots, videos appropriate to the subject matter. You can send your responses to me, Susan Smith,

  1. Does your organization use or manufacture drones and if so, what types?
  2. Does your organization produce or market drones and satellite or aerial imagery? If so, for what purposes does it use each of these solutions?
  3. What are the pros and cons of using drones as opposed to using satellite or aircraft to collect GIS data?
  4. Do you have use cases of how much your customers spent on aerial imagery before they adopted drones, compared with what their costs are today?
  5. Are there different types of drones used for different types of data collection? If so, what are they?
  6. Do you have customers using both drones and satellite or aerial imagery for their GIS data collection?
  7. What types of cameras and sensors are used in most drones used for GIS data collection?
  8. Does the automation of drones reduce the incidence of human error significantly?
  9. What are the features of the drone that allow it to perform tasks that a satellite or aircraft cannot perform?
  10. What are the chances of data overload with a drone or with multiple drones gathering data where one is unable to gather all the necessary data?
  11. What are the current FAA rules for operating drones commercially?
  12. How would you advise a potential customer regarding the use of drones as opposed to other forms of GIS data collection?

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Categories: agriculture, analytics, Big Data, climate change, cloud, data, disaster relief, DroneDeploy, drones, earthquakes, emergency response, field GIS, geocoding, geomatics, geospatial, GIS, global aircraft surveillance, government, GPS, hurricanes, image-delivery software, lidar, location intelligence, mapping, mobile, mobile mapping, NASA, National Map, photogrammetry, public safety, real estate, reality modeling, remote sensing, resilient cities, retail, satellite based tracking, satellite imagery, senseFly, sensors, situational intelligence, spatial data, SPOT 7 satellite, storm surge, survey, telecommunications, UAS, UAV, UAVs

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